According to the world drug report published in 2016, 183 million people were involved in cannabis consumption. This means that about 3.8% of the total global population use Cannabis.
Drug Use and Health also indicated that the prevalence of cannabis use among those aged 12 and older increased from around 6% in the mid-2000s to 8% in the period 2013-2014.
Its many medicinal properties can explain this increasing use of the plant.
Recent studies and researches have helped people in the apprehension of the health benefits of the substance.
As a consequence, a vast majority of people today, have turned to Cannabis as a natural remedy for problems like stress, anxiety, panic attacks, and many other mood-related issues. This article will cover the use of Cannabis for anxiety treatment.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis sativa (also referred to as marijuana, weed, pot, and dope) is a flowering plant typically grown in the tropical and temperate regions of central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
The plant is believed to contain 483 known compounds of which 65 are identified to be cannabinoids. The main component of the plant is the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD comes second, accounting for almost 40% of the plant extract. The plant has been central to human life since centuries, with its use dating back to the 3rd millennium BC.
It has been used as an entheogen (for religious or spiritual practices) in India and Nepal since at least 1500 BC.
The plant, however, gained popularity in the U.S in the 1990s, after it was legalized for medicinal use. Today, 29 states in the U.S including Washington DC have legalized medical marijuana.
How Does Cannabis Affect The Functioning of The Human Body?
Recent studies have enabled scientists to learn a lot about the mechanisms and action of cannabis inside our body. Reviews state that our body produces a group of ‘cannabis-like’ chemicals called endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids.
These compounds interact with cannabinoid receptors and form the endocannabinoid receptor system. Cannabinoid receptors are primarily located on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, but can also be found in some peripheral organs and tissues.
There are two types of Cannabinoid receptors; CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors act like switches to change bodily functions such as mood, sleep, blood pressure, pain responses or appetite.
Plant Cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, mimic the functioning of natural cannabinoids and interfere with the pathways of nerve signalling. Scientists today are trying to translate these effects into the development of a viable medicine.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an umbrella term used for several disorders that cause nervousness, stress, fear, apprehension, and worrying. It affects the ability of a person to think clearly and reduces the skill of reasoning.
Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as increased blood pressure, sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness and heart palpitations.
People suffering from the problem are unable to carry out their regular daily tasks effectively, and often face challenges both in their homes and in offices.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in the United States (U.S.). It is the most common group of mental illnesses in the country. The disease can be classified into six main types, these include;
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The symptoms of the disease include excessive, long-lasting worries about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations.
This involves sudden, brief attacks of intense terror, which may lead to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties. These attacks reached a peak after about 10 minutes but can last for as long as an hour in some cases.
Social Anxiety Disorder
People suffering from this disorder are usually very non-social. They tend to avoid public situations and human contact for fear of embarrassment or being negatively judged.
Phobia is the unnecessary fear of an object, animal, person or situation. This fear renders a person incapable of handling many cases.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
As the name suggests, people with this disorder have irrational compulsions regarding certain things. The symptoms of the disorder include thoughts or actions that are repetitive, distressing, and intrusive.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This disorder usually results as a consequence of some experience. The sufferers could have experienced a previous trauma such as a severe accident, military combat, sexual assault or a hostage situation.
How Is Cannabis Used To Treat Anxiety?
Studies have shown that the chemical makeup of Cannabis can be beneficial in treating anxiety. While these studies are still in their initial stages, scientists are keen on believing that the plant can be used as an effective medicine for many mood disorders.
It is thought that the cannabinoid called CBD is the main component of Cannabis that is responsible for delivering anxiolytic properties.
Unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive chemical and therefore, it does not interact directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors. It, however, does exhibit an indirect effect on these receptors by inhibiting the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids.
This leads to an increase in our body’s naturally-produced cannabinoids. CBD is also believed to counteract the anxiety-driven tendencies of THC. It has been advocated that THC can sometimes be linked to feelings of paranoia and anxiety, but these effects are minimized by the presence of CBD in the plant.
In a small study conducted by Brazilian researchers on patients afflicted with generalized social anxiety, CBD consumption was reported to cause a significant decrease in anxiety.
In another study, done on mice, it was found that repeated administration of CBD helps the hippocampus regenerate neurons, which could be useful for treating anxiety or depression.
Which Cannabis Strains Are Good for Anxiety?
Some of the best strains of Cannabis for anxiety are mentioned below;
- Granddaddy Purple: Provides peace by easing all worries.
- Jack Herer: It’s a high THC strain which provides calming effects.
- Cannatonic: It is a high CBD hybrid that is used for anxiety as it relaxes the patient.
- Girl Scout Cookies: It is usually used for a post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Canna-Tsu: It is a high CBD strain that is used for stress disorders.
- Strawberry a cough: Used for social anxiety.
- ACDC: A strain that relieves anxiety without causing euphoria.
- Northern Lights: It is used for the obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Fire OG: Used for OCD as it contains high levels of THC.
- Blackberry Kush: Used for insomnia associated with anxiety.
How To Micro-Dose Weed and Treat Anxiety?
Microdosing means taking small amounts of cannabis for functional experience, this way you can limit the psychoactive effects. The microdose can be as low as 1mg and as high as 5mg.
Microdosing for anxiety as beneficial as higher amounts of cannabis can cause anxiety. It can be done by consuming cannabis edibles, vaping, taking cannabis oil or tinctures. Smoking should be avoided.
A cannabis strain with high CBD content is beneficial, so, go for strains having THC and CBD in a ratio of 1:1. Ay strain containing less than 10% THC and more than 10% CBD can be used for micro-dosing.
Start taking small doses and document the dose and any side effects. If you experience side effects, reduce your dose.
What Does Research Say About Medical Cannabis and Its Use for Anxiety Disorders?
According to a study by Louis F. Fabre and David McLendon, the use of cannabis (nabilone) was studied in 25 patients for 28 days. There was a control group that was given a placebo.
Each week the patients were evaluated for improvement in signs of anxiety by the physicians with the help of Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety.
The study was concluded showing dramatic improvement in signs and symptoms of the patients who received cannabis when compared with the placebo group.
User Reviews On The Use of Cannabis for Anxiety
Users on Reddit, when asked about their experiences regarding the use of Cannabis for anxiety, stated that the effectiveness of the substance depended much upon the strain of the plant.
One user commented that the Indica strains worked well for anxiety, while the Sativa strain made them somewhat uncomfortable for a while.
Some users also linked the effects of the plant to their daily dosage, saying that if they smoked a lot of strong sativa, it had the tendency to increase the symptoms of anxiety/paranoia, while Smoking a moderate amount of Indica helped them relax.
Many individuals were of the view that a strain with low THC content and higher CBD levels was better in curing their problems.
They also commented that while CBD gave anti-anxiety effects, the presence of THC helped elevate mood and bring a feeling of content.
In What Ways Can Cannabis Be Used for Treating Anxiety?
You can employ the following ways for the usage of Cannabis for treating anxiety;
- Using Cannabis concentrates
- Cannabis infused oil/butter
- Cannabis tinctures
Studies concerning the use of Cannabis for anxiety and its medicinal properties are still very insubstantial, and there are varied opinions as to whether the plant can help minimise the symptoms of anxiety.
Although researchers debate that the plant can provide many health benefits and should be made more accessible, it is still advised not to take Cannabis without first consulting a pharmacologist.